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Dog fighting ring raided in Nathalie
SoVaNow.com / April 20, 2011Authorities seized 41 dogs Wednesday at a ramshackle mobile home in the Nathalie area and arrested four suspects in breaking up what authorities call a major dogfighting and narcotics trafficking operation in Halifax County.
A swarm of local and state police, federal agents, animal control officers and trained staff plus outside animal welfare groups descended on the out-of-the-way corner of Nathalie, turning dead-end Doctor Lacy Trail into a staging area for the dog rescue and drugs and firearms raid.
Four arrests were announced yesterday afternoon following a round-up during the day. Those arrested include:
Jonathan “Scooter” Williams, 26, of 1092 Golden Leaf Road, Nathalie
Levar Adams, 23, of 2177 Acorn Road, Nathalie
William Thaxton Jr., 23, of 1056 Doctor Lacy Trail, Nathalie
Jermaine Kevalle Thaxton, 60, of 1050 Doctor Lacy Trail, Nathalie
Williams and Jermaine Thaxton have been charged with felony dogfighting offenses; Williams also was arraigned on firearms possession. Authorities have lodged drug charges against Adams and William Thaxton; William Thaxton also is charged with firearms possession.
Halifax County Sheriff Stanley Noblin said yesterday that additional charges and arrests could be forthcoming.
No one was at home when police surrounded the trailer at 1050 Doctor Lacy Trail shortly before 10 a.m. Strewn about the property were a child’s bicycle, other children’s toys, tires and discarded household items. Jermaine Thaxton, the occupant of the home, was not there. He lived there with family members, some of them children, said police.
In a wooded area behind the trailer, authorities found dozens of dogs, mostly pit bulls, and a pit area apparently dug out for dogfighting. Dogs — some scarred or emaciated — were chained or roped to stakes, trees and out-buildings. Many lacked access to food or water.
Animal control officers and members of an ASPCA emergency response team from Missouri canvassed the property, rounding up the dogs for examination and identification. One by one, the animals were placed in carrier cages and loaded onto a large ASPCA emergency response van driven in from Missouri. From there, the animals were to be taken to an undisclosed location for medical triage to determine the next step in their treatment.
“Every one of these dogs will have an opportunity to receive medical care and attention,” said Tim Rickey, senior investigations director for the ASCAP, based in St. Clair, Mo. Rickey called the scene “fairly consistent with what we continue to see with animal fighting operations” — a “brutal industry,” he said.
“We see this all over the country at a high rate. People have no idea how common this is,” said Rickey.
In addition to the dogfighting pit, a search of the woods turned up evidence of dog carcasses, Rickey said.
Noblin said local authorities have been investigating the operation for between nine months and a year. After citizens tipped off police to drug trafficking in the neighborhood, the investigation grew to include dogfighting.
“This was an undercover operation that started [with] narcotics and evolved from there,” said Noblin, adding: “We’ve been getting complaints [on this area] for several years.”
Police believe the property was being used both for dogfighting and training of animals for fighting. Noblin declined to say if gambling was a significant part of the operation, but suggested charges could be forthcoming.
The raid unfolded at two sites: predominantly the trailer home at 1050 Doctor Lacy Trail, but also at the 1092 Golden Leaf Road residence, the listed address of Jonathan “Scooter” Williams. Scouring both locations, police seized cash, guns and drugs; amounts and types were not specified.
Noblin credited nearby citizens with providing the tips that got the investigation rolling. The complaints spanned drug trafficking and dogfighting, and as the investigation continued, a growing list of agencies became involved.
Participating in the raid yesterday were local officers with the county Sheriff’s Department, South Boston Police, Virginia State Police, the Halifax/South Boston Regional Narcotics and Gang Taskforce and the Campbell County Sheriff’s Department. Also assisting were agents with the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the state veterinarian’s office, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and ATF.
Halifax County, South Boston and Campbell County animal control officers rounded up the animals, assisted by trained staff with the ASPCA and the National Dogfighting Alliance.
Rickey, ASPCA senior director, said the aim of his organization is to rehabilitate the fighting dogs and turn them over to groups that specialize in finding adoptive homes for abused animals.
Many of the dogs seized yesterday showed few obvious signs of abuse — and by and large, they were docile while being handled by animal control officers. Rickey said the animals’ behavior was consistent with what his group normally sees: “In typical dog fighting operations, what we see are animals that are very friendly to humans …. Unfortunately, they are extremely aggressive towards other animals,” he said.
Rickey praised local and state authorities and the community for a “high level of commitment” in working together to bust the Nathalie operation. Thanks to the efforts of local law enforcement, the 41 dogs recovered yesterday will have a chance to live out happier lives.
“If any animal ever deserved a second chance, it’s a dog that has the misfortune to be born into this horrible industry,” he said.
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